|Due: beginning of class,
April 21-May 5
April 21: Walter Scott, The Tale of Old Mortality (read to Volume
II, Chapter 1 [in some editions Chapter 14], pg. 119)
The Tale of Old Mortality is an example of a new kind of fiction that Scott invented: the historical novel. Like others that he wrote, The Tale of Old Mortality relates the story of an average guy suddenly caught up in some dramatic historical event. In Henry Morton's case, this is the late seventeenth-century uprising in Scotland of religious Whig "Covenanters" against the Episcopalian "Royalist" government of Charles II . Why should anyone in the Scotland of Scott's time care about these events that took place over a hundred years before? What value does the memory of past events hold for those living in the present? How do events of the past impinge on the present? What message does the past convey to the present? How do the people of the present community in the novel treat the teller of the tale, Old Mortality himself? What role does he have in his community? Describe the value of the past and/or its ability to shape the present in the early part of The Tale of Old Mortality.
April 28: Walter Scott, The Tale of Old Mortality (read to Volume
III, Chapter 1 [in some editions Chapter 31], pg. 249)
The Tale of Old Mortality is a story of the clash of poltical groups, of classes even, but also of two different ways of looking at the world. Covenanters especially see the world in relation to their understanding of just one source: the Bible. How does the Bible guide the actions, beliefs, even the language of the Covenanters? What are the principles and beliefs that guide their poltical ideas and actions? How does the Bible, a book full of stories of events that happened more than a thousand years ago, give meaning to the contemporary actions of the Convenanters? What's it like to live one's life based on a single source? Does Scott himself condemn or find value in this way of thinking? Discuss the Biblical vision of the Convenanters in relation to their actions and poltical ideals.
May 3: Walter Scott, The Tale of Old Mortality (read to end)
Henry Morton, by family loyalties a Covenanter, is nevertheless dismayed to hear the opinions of Covenanters like Macbriar and Meiklewrath, who represent an absolute and "pure" devotion to the cause and are willing to do anything in its service. What does Henry find so objectionable? If he is a Covenanter himself, why does he rebuke Macbriar? What, if any, are the limits of acceptable actions in a revolutionary cause? Do the ends justify the means? Who determines what actions are ethical and which are not? Compare/contrast the pure devotion of Macbriar and Meiklewrath with Morton's critique of their attitude.
May 5: Walter Scott, The
Tale of Old Mortality
The novel recounts a historic clash in which one side, the Covenanters, lost even though their influence remained in Scottish culture long afterward. Which side is Scott on? Does he accept the verdict of history or does he wish to revive the Covenenating cause? Does the narrative of a group of would-be revolutionaries meant to teach us about revolution in general or the French revolution specifically? Discuss Scott's message on revolution for his own revolutionary time.